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Abta chief backs pandemic-hardened firms to weather cost-of-living crisis

Travel firms that have managed to stay afloat until now should be able to weather the cost-of-living crisis, believes the chairman of Abta.

Speaking during a panel discussion at Travel Weekly’s Future of Travel Spring Forum on Thursday, Alistair Rowland expressed hope that companies which are still operating would be able to survive despite the challenges they face.

However, he added their survival depends partly on the government “being sensible in terms of the payback of CBILS (Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme)”.

His comments came after leading industry accountant Chris Photi told delegates he felt more businesses would cease trading due to inflation, which could peak at 10% by the end of the year, according to the Bank of England.

“Businesses that have found a way to get through so far will be managing their profit and loss statements (P&Ls) and balance sheets and have clearly been doing so successfully,” said Rowland.

But he warned there could be “difficulty” ahead for travel agents that have retail units on primary high streets.

“I think secondary high streets will be okay; they’ll redevelop,” he added. “But primary high streets with no multiple retailers are going to be a struggle.

“In overall terms, if a retailer has been sensible or cautious enough to get through to date, they’ll find a way to get through, and their investors or supporters should support them from here on in.”

Cautious optimism for travel firms’ survival was echoed by Julia Lo-Bue Said, who said businesses have become more resilient and “leaner” because of Covid.

“The pandemic has enabled every business to look at and review their cost-lines,” said the chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership.

“Businesses in general have come out much leaner and stronger.”

She added there is now more of an “entrepreneurial” spirit in the industry and a feeling of “positivity” despite numerous challenges.

“[Independent] travel agents are growing, and not just in our membership,” she said. “Whether that’s on the high street or homeworking, there is growth.

“It’s easy to be downbeat but there is positivity. We’re starting to see that entrepreneurial, passionate feeling about the sector come through.”

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